Saturday, June 19, 2010

Week in review (6/13 to 6/19)

It will be mid-November before the Pentagon awards a contract for Air Force refueling tankers. That word came at the close of the week from Lt. Gen. Mark Shackelford, the Air Force's top uniformed acquisition official, during a briefing with reporters.

The Pentagon, after it granted a 60-day extension to EADS to prepare a bid, had said the award date would not change from "early fall." EADS said it needed the extra time after partner Northrop Grumman dropped out of the competition.

The original deadline for EADS and rival Boeing to submit their bids was May 10, but it's now July 9. EADS is offering a tanker version of its Airbus A330 and Boeing is offering a modified 767.

EADS wants to assemble the tankers in Mobile, Ala., at a site at Brookley Industrial Complex.

Lawrence D. Thomas was appointed manager of NASA's Constellation Program, which manages the effort to take humans beyond low-Earth orbit and develop the next generation launch vehicle and spacecraft. He'll be based at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Thomas most recently served as the deputy program manager of the Constellation Program at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala. Last month, lawmakers who support Constellation were upset the agency reassigned the former head of the program, Jeff Hanley, to a deputy position at Johnson Space Center.

Hanley had opposed administration efforts to shut down the program. Stennis Space Center, Miss., and Michoud Assembly Facility, New Orleans, are both involved in the Constellation Program.

- The Orion crew exploration vehicle took shape as the two halves of the crew module were fused together at NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. The Lockheed Martin Orion team welded the forward cone assembly to the aft barrel assembly using the next generation friction stir weld process.

Prior to flight testing, this crew module will be tested on the ground in flight-like environments, including static vibration, acoustic, and water landing tests.

- The STS-132 Atlantis space shuttle crew visited NASA's John C. Stennis Space Center Thursday to thank personnel for their role in the May mission to the International Space Station. Crew members presented a video recap of their mission, scheduled as the last flight for the Atlantis shuttle.

The 12-day mission of Atlantis carried the Russian Rassvet Mini-Research Module-1 to the ISS. Atlantis also was the first shuttle to dock to the Russian Space Station Mir. It traveled to the ISS 11 times. Atlantis now is being prepared to serve as a backup craft should an emergency arise during the final two scheduled shuttle missions.

Joint Strike Fighter
The Defense Department is threatening to withhold payments to Lockheed Martin starting as early as next month if it doesn't submit a suitable plan for fixing problems for tracking contract costs and schedules. The plan is due June 30 and a decision will come several weeks later on whether Lockheed has demonstrated it can fix the problems within six to nine months, according to Shay Assad, the Pentagon procurement director. It could impact payments on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., will be the JSF training center.

- The short-takeoff and vertical-landing version of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter broke the sound barrier June 10. It's the first U.S. operational STOVL aircraft to exceed that milestone. A Marine pilot flew BF-2 to a speed of Mach 1.07 during a test at 30,000 feet over an off-shore range near Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md. Two Air Force F-35A conventional takeoff-and-landing test aircraft also have broken the sound barrier.

Because of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Air Force water survival courses have temporarily relocated from Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla., to Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash. Training at NAS Pensacola was suspended June 4 when oil was discovered inside the training area used by Detachment 2 of the 66th Training Squadron.

Up to 55 students a week attend the three-day course. It's unclear how long training operations there will be suspended. The Deepwater Horizon exploded April 20, killing 11 workers. Oil from the well has spewed into the Gulf of Mexico since then.

- At Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., Cmdr. Cris Treharne turns over command of the Center for Naval Aviation Technical Training Unit to Cmdr. Angie Walker June 25 at Welch Auditorium. Walker is reporting from Stennis Space Center, Miss., where she served as the deputy assistant chief of staff for operations for the Commander, Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command.

- The U.S. Transportation Security Administration unveiled a full-body X-ray scanner Friday at Mississippi's Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport’s security checkpoint. It's built by Rapiscan Systems plant in Ocean Springs, Miss. The scanner can detect metallic and non-metallic items including weapons and explosives, concealed beneath a passenger’s clothes. Rapiscan is part of OSI Systems of Hawthorne, Calif.

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